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Away at Latvian Centre Theatre

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Get yourself Away to the theatre for play’s 30th anniversary
Away, Michael Gow, Latvian Centre Theatre, ARENAarts, performing arts, stage, anniversary, syllabus, Australian
Angry campers (Andrew Smalley, Stewart Mulligan, Phylissa Meagher, Mike Moshos and Sarah Langridge) confront Jim (Don Weaver, seated) and his daughter Meg (Madeleine Shaw, also seated) in Away.

A quintessential Australian story, mixing drama, humour and home truths, is the latest offering from ARENAarts as the play in question celebrates its 30th anniversary. Written by Michael Gow and directed by Christine Ellis at the Latvian Centre Theatre, Away is the story of three different families who go on their annual Christmas holidays in late 1967, all burdened with their own baggage.

First performed in 1986, it is a winner of the New South Wales Premier's Literary Award and has become one of the most widely-produced Australian plays of all time. Away is also on the high school syllabus in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.

Away, Michael Gow, Latvian Centre Theatre, ARENAarts, performing arts, stage, anniversary, syllabus, Australian
Away director Christine Ellis, right, choreographs a scene with Mike Moshos and Sarah Langridge.

It's a classic Australian play about three families who go away on different summer vacations and a freak storm brings them all together in the one location," Christine said. "Several secrets are revealed and the families are renewed – it is set in several different locations and moves very quickly.

"The challenge is to have several different sets on stage at one time so the play flows smoothly. "I also need to bring together a group of experienced and inexperienced actors and mold them into a cohesive team."

Away, Michael Gow, Latvian Centre Theatre, ARENAarts, performing arts, stage, anniversary, syllabus, Australian
Coral (Steph Locke) is drawn to newlywed Rick (Stewart Mulligan) in the play Away, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Acting since she was an 11-year-old – for more than 45 years – Christine has been extensively involved with Stirling Players both on and off the stage for more than a decade. She has also performed with the Old Mill, Marloo, Garrick and Phoenix Theatres and ARENAarts and has several awards to her credit for productions at Youthfest and the Mandurah One-Act Play Festival, as well as Blak Yak Theatre's 24-Hour Stage Project.

Christine also runs weekly drama classes at KADS Theatre where she has directed Murder in Company, Little Women, Cracked and Charitable Intent. "Away appealed because I love Australian shows and I have seen it done twice before," she said. "I thought it would be a great challenge for a theatre group to be able to stage it in a creative way."

Away, Michael Gow, Latvian Centre Theatre, ARENAarts, performing arts, stage, anniversary, syllabus, Australian
Valerie Henry, centre, is appearing as Gwen in Away with Don Weaver as husband Jim and Madeleine Shaw as daughter Meg.

Valerie Henry plays Gwen, wife to Jim and mother of Meg – a woman who has had a hard life. "She saw what happened to people in the Great Depression and doesn't want it to ever happen again, to herself or her family," she said.

"As a result, while Gwen sees herself as self-sacrificing she has, in reality, become overbearing and controlling, both as a mother and wife. She is a snob and sees material wealth as a being very important. Gwen appears very forthright and unapproachable but, once she is faced with the reality of the storm and what is happening to young Tom and his family, she reassesses her life and attitude to her family."

While all of the characters in Away are away on a personal journey, Valerie believes Gwen travels the furthest. "She is so lost and is so far away from her family at the start of the play," she said. "Telling Gwen's story – and making her journey back believable and real – is my biggest challenge.

"I was looking for a play that was interesting and challenging and Away fit those criteria. It is also Australian but very different – the writer has cleverly used Shakespeare and the genre of a play-within-a-play, blurring the boundary of what is real and what is make-believe."

Away plays at 8pm June 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 with 2pm matinees June 12 and 19. Tickets are $20, $16 concession – book on 9399 9947, arenaarts@hotmail.com.au or at www.trybooking.com/LCNW. The Latvian Centre Theatre is at 60 Cleaver Terrace, Belmont.

Away, Michael Gow, Latvian Centre Theatre, ARENAarts, performing arts, stage, anniversary, syllabus, Australian
Michael Gow's Away – featuring Don Weaver, Madeleine Shaw, Valerie Henry, Andrew Smalley and Steph Locke – all begins at a school awards night.

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Why? There's a reason this is one of the most widely-produced Australian plays of all time – come and find out why
When: 8pm June 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 & 25; 2pm June 12 & 19
Phone: 9399 9947
Where: Latvian Centre Theatre, 60 Cleaver Terrace, Belmont
Cost: $20, $16 concession
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